March 2024

The big event on the Farmers Union calendar in March was NFU’s annual convention. Nearly 500 Farmers Union delegates, members, and guests from across the country gathered in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona to set NFU’s policy priorities for the year and hear from agricultural experts and political leaders on various issues facing American family farm agriculture.

Inside the beltway, the lengthy annual appropriations process for fiscal year 2024 (FY24) has finally ended. Congress reached a major breakthrough in early March and has passed all twelve appropriations bills to fund the government through September. Right to Repair has also been gaining new momentum, and Farmers Union members stepped up to make their voices heard.

Photo by National Farmers Union.

From March 10-12, NFU hosted the 122nd Anniversary Convention. This year’s programming focused on the importance of democratic institutions, both within Farmers Union and throughout the nation. In an era where public trust in institutions is waning, it is crucial for Farmers Union to reinforce our governance principles and the thoughtful processes that guide our grassroots advocacy.

Featured speakers included U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; Sarah Suggs, President and CEO of the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute for American Democracy; and Kari Jo Lawrence, CEO of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. Convention attendees also heard from a panel on the future of farmer-owned cooperatives, featuring Chuck Conner, President and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; Keri Jacobs, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics and Partridge Chair in Cooperative Leadership at the University of Missouri; and Doug O’Brien, President and CEO of NCBA CLUSA.

Photo by National Farmers Union.

In his remarks, Secretary Vilsack also announced finalization of USDA’s “Product of USA” labeling rule, which requires meat, poultry, or egg products bearing the voluntary ‘Product of USA’ or ‘Made in the USA’ label be exclusively derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States. Secretary Vilsack announced the proposed rule at NFU’s convention last year in San Francisco.

President Joe Biden provided pre-recorded remarks on promoting competition in agricultural markets and the need for Fairness for Farmers, as did U.S. Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan on the Biden Administration’s efforts to promote competition and ramp up antitrust enforcement.

Photo by National Farmers Union.

Following a series of breakout sessions covering topics on right to farm laws, managing farm stress, food safety, the future of sustainable aviation fuel, and protecting landowner rights, Farmers Union delegates re-elected NFU President Rob Larew and Vice President Jeff Kippley, to their third and second terms, respectively. Their terms will run through 2026.

The main event of convention is the consideration of NFU’s policy book and special orders of business. Delegates debated and adopted the 2024 NFU policy book and approved six special orders of business, including on Fairness for Farmers, the 2024 Farm Bill, the farm safety net, conservation, dairy policy reform, and support for cooperatives and the international year of cooperation.

The special orders and the full 2024 policy book can be found at

Photo by National Farmers Union.

Earlier this month, USDA issued its second final rule in a series of updates to the Packers & Stockyards Act (P&S Act). The “Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity” rule establishes clearer standards for prohibited practices under the P&S Act, including discrimination, retaliation, and deception by packers, contractors, and dealers. The final rule will take effect on May 6, 2024.

In addition to providing anti-discrimination protections for legally protected classes, the rule bolsters protections for livestock producers and poultry growers who engage in legally protected activities, such as lawful communications or refusals to communicate, asserting contractual and P&S Act rights, and participation in associations and cooperatives. It also supports USDA monitoring, evaluation, and enforcement of compliance with aspects of this rule through certain recordkeeping requirements.

While the rule itself does not definitively solve the vexing “harm to competition” issue that has plagued P&S Act enforcement, it does restate from President Biden’s competition executive order, “it is unnecessary under the…Act to demonstrate industry-wide harm to establish a violation of the Act and the ‘unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive’ treatment of one farmer” violates the Act.

The final rule is set to take effect on May 6, 2024. The rule’s finalization was announced just days after a successful effort by NFU to defeat a harmful policy rider out of the FY24 agriculture funding bill, which was passed as part of a six-bill spending package – known as a “minibus” – in the first week of March. This policy rider was included in the U.S. House FY24 agriculture funding bill proposal and would have blocked enforcement of the recently completed P&S Act rules, while preventing the finalization of the outstanding rules. Its exclusion from the FY24 minibus is a major win for family farmers and ranchers across the country.

In further defense of the P&S Act, NFU Vice President Jeff Kippley penned an op-ed for the publication Agri-Pulse, highlighting the importance of the P&S Act for family farmers and ranchers:

Given the abundant evidence of price fixing and unfair practices in the livestock industry, it’s clear that maintaining the status quo won’t foster innovation, competition, or robust market oversight. It’s time to acknowledge the heavily consolidated and vertically integrated nature of the industry and enact rules that level the playing field for family farmers and ranchers.

At NFU’s 122nd Anniversary Convention, Secretary Vilsack indicated farmers should soon expect more proposed rules to be issued which will address the poultry tournament system and further address the “harm to competition” issue, as well as a possible rule addressing price discovery in cattle markets. NFU will continue working to ensure the P&S Act rulemakings can proceed without interference while urging USDA to swiftly complete the remaining rules.

Photo by National Farmers Union.

On February 2, NFU submitted comments to the FTC in support of the Public Interest Research Group’s (PIRG) and iFixit’s petition to pursue rule making that will protect farmers’ and consumers’ Right to Repair.

PIRG and iFixit submitted this petition in late 2023. The petition (“Petition for Section 5 Rulemaking Addressing Consumers’ Right to Repair”) lays out the case for the rulemaking and the necessary components to adequately address consumer expectations. In support of the petition, NFU’s comments urge FTC to establish rules that are consistent with consumer exceptions of product repair and limit the power of consolidated farm equipment manufacturers.

NFU believes it is essential that such rules address the consumer expectations, including (but not limited to):

  • Consumable components be replaceable and readily available throughout a product’s lifespan.
  • Components that commonly break be replaceable and readily available as repair parts.
  • Consumers be able to take damaged products to a repair shop of their choice or perform a repair themselves.
  • When a manufacturer discontinues support for a product, its key functions remain intact, and an independent repair shop be able to continue to perform repairs.
  • Identical components from two identical devices be interchangeable without intervention from the manufacturer.
  • Independent repair shops be not required to report customers’ personally identifiable information to the manufacturer.

Furthermore, NFU’s comments highlight consolidation in the industry as a concern, with just three manufacturers controlling the majority of farm equipment production, sales, and repairs. High levels of concentration among farm equipment manufacturers have contributed to consolidation among farm equipment dealers, further exacerbating the problems farmers face accessing repair. This consolidation also impacts small rural businesses that sell and repair agricultural equipment.

NFU’s comments also cite and reject false and misleading claims by manufacturers and dealers that independent repair undermines emissions compliance laws under the Clean Air Act (CAA). NFU wrote U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan last June requesting clarification. In his response to NFU, Administrator Regan sharply rebuked these claims and expressed EPA’s support for independent repair.

NFU remains involved in a separate FTC complaint against John Deere for their illegal restrictions in the repair market. NFU has championed federal legislation to ensure farmers and ranchers can fix their own equipment. State and regional Farmers Union divisions are leading the charge across the country. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union secured a major win last April with Colorado becoming the first state to enact agricultural Right to Repair legislation – this law went into effect on January 1, 2024.

A core pillar of the Fairness for Farmers campaign, NFU remains committed to securing the Right to Repair for farmers and ranchers nationwide.

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